Reverse Kearny – A Step In The Right Direction Or A Waste of Money?

Among the so-called Sandy Mitigation/Recovery proposals is a project known as Reverse Kearny, known by New Jersey Transit as the “Westbound Waterfront Connection.” Between Newark and Secaucus Transfer, there is the point where eastbound trains on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) can either continue to Penn Station, New York or divert to Hoboken Terminal via the Waterfront Connection. At the present time, the Waterfront Connection is used by a few North Jersey Coast Line (NJCL) trains in revenue service, as well as to send equipment to the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex for service and repair.

While it is possible for equipment to come out of Hoboken and head west on the NEC, as a few NJCL trains do, each of those trains must cross over all tracks of the NEC, blocking trains heading to Penn Station from Trenton and Long Branch until it passes. That makes regular use of the Waterfront Connection impractical, especially at peak commuting hours. The proposed construction would create a flyover that would allow trains coming out of Hoboken to enter the NEC without fouling the tracks.

Such a project would be a waste of money, given the number of trains that currently use the connection. However, if the connection is used judiciously, it is a comparatively cheap and quickly-executable temporary solution to most of the system’s capacity problems. West of this connection, the Northeast Corridor has no real capacity issues; it is east of there—at Portal Bridge, the North River Tunnels and “A” Interlocking—that problems exist.

However, a large percentage of people on the trains bound for New York exit at Penn Station, Newark for a connection to Wall Street via PATH. These trains arrive at New York Penn with empty seats, wasting precious capacity pointlessly. With the so-called Reverse Kearny flyover, it would be possible for trains to stop at Newark, discharge passengers for PATH, and then continue to Hoboken instead of Penn Station New York. Other trains would skip Newark entirely and head directly into New York. All passengers on board those trains would be heading to New York Penn Station.

This would mean that fewer NEC and NJCL trains would actually go into Penn Station, which would free up capacity for trains from the Raritan Valley Line, from west of Dover on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines, and from south of Long Branch. Such an operation would utilize NJT’s brand new Dual-Power locomotives effectively, to provide a one-seat ride for more passengers who want it.
More importantly, this project would buy time to allow for the planning and implementation of a properly thought-out, well-designed, well-engineered, well-built, and un-rushed project for construction of additional track capacity into Penn Station, such as the single additional tunnel our organization has been advocating for several years.